RIP Isabel Joyce Fleming: b. 3 May 1924, d. 3 May 1997

Today would have been my mother’s 90th birthday.  It’s also the 17th anniversary of her death. (updated 2014)

Born in the 1920s in Newcastle upon Tyne, my mother moved south with her parents and some of her siblings during the war years of the 1940s – she was the youngest of seven children.

Although she left school aged just 14, my mother always seemed intellectually very accomplished and was a big believer in education. Some of my earliest memories are of her teaching me to read.  She had cut out small squares of card and hand-written letters on them; we would sit and make words by putting them together.

1966: yes, that’s me. And yes, I still like ice cream.

I can remember many happy times spent with her. Lots of warmth and laughter. But my memories of her also include the sense of disappointment she seemed to carry with her wherever she went.

I suspect she felt she could have achieved more … had a bigger life, had circumstances been a little different.

When the end came for my mother, it came in the guise of cancer of the oesophagus, which over the course of many, many months whittled away at her until there was almost nothing left. It was an ugly and unpleasant end.

She died before my sons were born. But I know she would have adored them.

She’d have been far less impressed by the life my father went on to carve out for himself in the years after her death. I think she would have considered him to have been an embarrassment. She’d have been right too. But that’s another story.